Public forum offers chance for input on traffic flow, pedestrian safety

Any and all comments requested by consultant

By Stephen Kindland
Resident Community News

Residents in Riverside, Avondale and surrounding neighborhoods have a chance to provide input on traffic flow and parking space in the Five Points business district when a public forum is held later this month.

Stephen Tocknell of Tocknell Planning Services and members of the 5 Points Merchants Association say they welcome “any and all comments” concerning traffic flow, on-street parking and safe travel for pedestrians and bicyclists in the bustling commercial area.

“No one has any preconceived notions,” Tocknell said of the forum, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at Sun-Ray Cinema, 1028 Park St. “The whole point is to address ideas that people have.”

The merchants association has joined Riverside Avondale Preservation in hiring Tocknell to conduct a “concept study” that will serve as a blueprint for creating a safer environment for pedestrians and bicyclists while minimizing the affect the changes will have on motorists traveling through the commercial area.
The plan also can be used to bolster the chances of the city spending as much as $750,000 to follow through on whatever plans result from the study. City Councilman Jim Love is seeking that amount after being approached by members of the two groups.

Love, whose District 14 includes Five Points, remains in support of the redesign, which likely will include changes to the historic, five-way intersection from which the district gets its name. He said that improvements are becoming more urgent, given the opening next year of nearby residential complexes, including 220 Riverside, a 294-unit project in nearby Brooklyn.
“I certainly applaud their efforts,” Love said of Riverside Avondale Preservation and the merchants association. “I will do my best to figure out how to get some money. It’s needed; they’re thriving over there.”

RAP – a not-for-profit group established in the mid-1970s to protect the area’s historic integrity – is using $36,000 left over from previous fundraisers to pay for the study, and has joined the 5 Points Merchants Association in raising money to demonstrate to the city that they are willing to come up with an estimated 10 percent of the cost to complete the projects outlined in the concept study.

Tocknell said he and others involved in the study have been working with city planners, engineers and other officials, and that he remains impressed with the resolve of RAP and the merchants association.

“This plan isn’t going to be put on a shelf,” he said. “It’s a plan that’s connected to an engineering plan that is connected to construction. That makes the whole thing a lot more worthwhile.”

Several ideas for improvements have emerged since mid-July, when Tocknell led Love and two dozen other people on a tour of the commercial area. The tour included a close look at the quasi-roundabout at the five-way intersection where Oak, Margaret, Lomax and Park streets meet.

The intersection has long been a source of confusion for pedestrians and drivers – especially motorists unfamiliar with the area. Proposed changes to increase safety while keeping the historic value of the lighthouse-looking post that flashes red and yellow lights – likely will be addressed at the forum, according to Allan DeVault, a managing partner of the Black Sheep restaurant on Oak Street.

He said other topics of equal importance will be covered, including the restructuring of the intersections at Post and Margaret streets and Post and Park streets.
“Community input is really the main goal of the forum,” DeVault said.

Tocknell says he hopes the forum will be well attended.
“I’m very pleased with how all the pieces are coming together,” he said. “Everyone likes the approach we are taking.”

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